By John Walker on September 13th, 2007 at 11:18 pm.
…the penguins were hardest hit by global warming and pollution. The ice had melted, the fish were gone.
Then, at the darkest hour, the ancient Penguin Goddess Sedna appeared before the starving masses. Gathering the survivors around her, she uttered these fateful words:
“My penguin children, here me well. Starvation and chaos are upon you. There is room for but one tribe. The others must perish less ye all perish. That is the price of survival.”
The Penguns stood in stunned silence. Only one tribe could remain, but which one? How would they decide? As darkness descended, the answer became apparent…
That’s right – PENGUIN DEATHMATCH.
Penguins Arena (for the sake of grammar, let’s assume this is pronounced, “Penguins: Arena”) is the mad conclusion of this worrying tale. From French indie developers, Frogames, it’s an extremely cute and daft deathmatch game born of the confused relationship between Quake 3 and that punching with boxing gloves on springs minigame in Monkey Ball.
It got itself a bit of attention last month when it received the first place prize in Intel’s Game Demo Contest, in the Best Game On The Go category, and another first place for Best Use Of Torque (the physics engine under its hood). And it’s not hard to see why. While it may be infuriatingly fond of reminding you that it’s the demo, and not the full game, once started it’s ludicrously fun.
The bonkers intro is the set up for why penguins would have grouped themselves into colour-coded clans, who then attempt to push each other off islands of ice by throwing snowballs, or – and this is perhaps where it stands out on its own – punching each other in the face. There are all manner of bonus drops to aid you, but the demo restricts access to all but one of them, chosen at random, when you play (the enemy AI penguins have access to the full arsenal). There’s three per side, and it’s all about the last team standing. Playing single player (which is most likely since while the demo offers to match you up with anyone else playing, we saw no signs of this happening) if you die and have any remaining teammates, you’ll immediately take control and continue.
The animation holds lots of lovely details. The incredibly stern look on penguins’ faces when they lob their snowballs, or the way they uselessly flap their wings when falling, is completely lovely. But what’s most fun is the massive satisfaction of watching a penguin go flying off the glacier, spinning high in the air, because of your beautifully timed snowball. Or fish-slapping them out of the air as they jump. And then, in your moment of gloating, finding yourself in the cold wet after being attacked from behind. (Small question: why does falling in the water make penguins be dead? Aren’t they sort of designed for that?) [Edit: Ah, sharks.]
Check out the demo here.